C for beginners: Introduction


Now that we have written a few programs, let’s look at the instructions we have used in them. There are basically three types of instructions in C:

  • Type Declaration Instruction
  • Arithmetic Instruction
  • Control Instruction

The purpose of each of these instructions are given below:

  • Type Declaration Instruction

    To declare the type of variables used in a C program

  • Arithmetic Instruction

    To perform arithmetic operations between constants and variables

  • Control Instruction

    To control the sequence of execution of various statements in a C program

Since the elementary C programs would usually contain only the type declaration and the arithmetic instructions; we would discuss only these two instructions at this section, the other types of them will be discussed in detail in the subsequent sections.

Type Declaration Instruction

This instruction is used to declare the type of variables being used in the program. Any variable used in the program must be declared before using it in any statement. The type declaration statement is written at the beginning of the main() function. Example:

int bas;
float rs, grossal;
char name, code;

There are several stable variations of the type declaration instruction. These are discussed below:

  • While declaring the type of variable, we can also initialise it

    int i = 0, j = 25;
    float a = 1.5, b = 1.99 + 2.4 * 1.44;
  • The order in which we define the variables is important sometimes, some other don’t. Example:

    int i = 10, j = 25;

    Is the same as:

    int j = 25, i = 10;


    float a = 1.5, b = a + 3.1;

    Is right, but

    float b = a + 3.1, a = 1.5;

    Is not. This is because we are trying to use a even before defining it.

  • The following statements would work:

    int a, b, c;
    a = b = c = 10;

    However, the following statement would not work:

    int a = b = c = 10;

    Once again, we are trying to use b (to assign to a) before defining it.

Arithmetic Instruction

An arithmetic instruction consists of a variable name on the left hand side of an = and variable names and constants on the right hand side of =. The variables and constants appearing on the right hand of = are connected by arithmetic operators like +, -, * and /. Example:

int ad;
int kot, delta, alpha, beta, gamma;
ad = 3200;
kot = 0.0056;
deta = alpha * beta / gamma + 3.2 * 2 / 5;


  • /, -, * and + are the arithmetic operator
  • = is the assignment operator
  • 2, 5 and 3200 are integer values
  • 3.2 and 0.0056 are real values
  • ad is an integer value
  • kot, delta, alpha, beta and gamma are real variables

The variables and constants together are called “operands” that are operated upon by the “arithmetic operators” and the result is assigned, using the assignment operator to the variable on the left-hand side.

A C arithmetic statement could be of three types.

  1. Integer mode arithmetic statement. This is an arithmetic statement in which all the operands are either integer variables or integer constants. For example:

    int i, king, issac, noteit;
    i += 1;
    king = issac * 234 + noteit - 7689;
  2. Real mode arithmetic statement. This is an arithmetic statement in which all the operands are either real constants or real variables. For example:

    float qbee, antink, si, prin, anoy, roi;
    qbee = antink + 23.123 / 4.5 * 0.3442;
    si = prin * anoy * roi / 100.0;
  3. Mixed mode arithmetic statement. This is an arithmetic statement in which some of the operands are integers and some of the operands are real. For example:

    float si, prin, anoy, roi, avg;
    int a, b, c, num;
    si = prin * anoy * roi / 100.0;
    avg = (a + b + c + num) / 4;

It is very important to understand how the execution of an arithmetic statement takes place. Firstly, the right hand side is evaluated using constants and the numerical values stored in the variable names. This value is then assigned to the variable on the left-hand side.

Though arithmetic instructions look simple to use, we often commit mistakes when writting them down. Let’s take a closer look at these statements.

  • C allows only one variable on the left-handed side of =. That is, z = k / l is legal, where as k * l = z is illegal.
  • In addition to the division operator, C also provides a modular division operator. This operator returns the remainder on dividing one integer with another. Thus, the expression 10 / 2 yields 0, whereas 10 % 2 yields 0. Note that the modulus operator (%) cannot be applied on a float. Also note that on using the % the sign of the remained is always the same as the sign of the numerator. Thus, -5 % 2 yields -1, where as 5 % -2 yields 1.
  • An arithmetic instruction is often used for storing character constants in character variables.

    char a, b, d;
    a = 'F';
    b = 'G';
    d = '+';

    When we do this, the ASCII values of the characters are stored in the variables. ASCII values are used to represent any character in memory. The ASCII values of ‘F’ and ‘G’ are 70 and 71.

  • Arithmetic operations can be performed on ints, floats, and chars.

    Thus, the statements:

    char x, y;
    int z;
    x = 'a';
    y = 'b';
    z = x + y;

    are perfectly valid, since the addition is perform on the ASCII values of the characters and not on the characters themselves. The ASCII values of ‘a’ and ‘b’ are 97 and 98. Hence, they can definitely added.

  • No operator is assumed to be present. It must be written explicitly. In the following example, the multiplication operator after b must be explicitly written:

    a = c.d.b(xy) // Usual arithmetic statement
    a = c * d * b * (x * y) // C Arithmetic statement
  • Unlike other high level languages, there is no operator for e=performing exponentiation operator. Thus, following statements are invalid:

    a = 3 ** 2;
    b = 3 ^ 2;

    If we want to do the exponentiation, we can get it done this way:

    #include <math.h>
    int main() {
    int a;
    a = pow(3, 2);
    printf("%i\n", a);
    return 0;

Here the pow() function is a standard library function. It is being used to raise 3 to the power of 2. **#include ** is a preprocessor directive. It is being used here to ensure that the **pow()** function works correctly.